Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Where I Was, And What I Was Doing On September 11, 2001


On September 11th, 2001, two thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven (2,977) people died as a result of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash of flight 93. In addition, more than six thousand (6,000) were injured. This attack was the deadliest in all of world history.

We were in Fort Walton Beach, FL for the 2001 Evangel Fellowship International Fall Conference when 9/11 occurred. My son Jonathan, and Pastor G.R. Purushotham from India were with me. 

We arrived on a Monday afternoon to attend the opening service that evening. It was unusually hot on that September Day. Looking back, it felt like things were just not completely right; sort of like things were a bit out of alignment. It was hard to explain. But something was just not right. We attended the opening service that evening.

The next morning the three of us were partaking of the hotel's continental breakfast in the breakfast area. If I remember correctly, the TV was tuned to a sports channel and no one was really paying much attention to it. Suddenly a guest comes in very abruptly and shouts, "Turn to a news channel. A plane just crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City!" Someone changed the channel and it was true. It wasn't just a plane though, it was an airliner full of passengers! "What a tragic accident!" I thought. We were wondering (out loud) how an accident like that could even happen. Then the 2nd plane hit the other tower! I cannot explain the horrific feeling I had as reality quickly sank in. This wasn't an accident. It was a planned terrorist attack! The United States of America had been brutally assaulted! To be quite honest, it didn't seem real and it was very hard to process.

We went back to our rooms to watch the event unfold. We saw both of the towers collapse even before we went to the morning service of the conference. So much was going on at the time. The Pentagon was attacked. Flight 93 (a fourth aircraft) disappeared off radar and went down in Pennsylvania. The part that was hard to fathom was the number people that would lose their lives that day. Later the morning meeting of the conference would be transformed into a solemn assembly in which we cried to God for the help of our nation and the world.

Soon after turning the TV channel and seeing the second tower hit, I called Connie (my wife) just to make sure all was well at home. We were several hours apart and I was not comfortable at all being that far away. She was fine, but rattled like the rest of the free world. We prayed together and we agreed that I would take the afternoon to gas up our van. Gas was going fast because ALL flights in the USA were now grounded indefinitely. We would head home early the very next morning. We cut the conference short by one day.

September the 11th, 2001 is a day we must NEVER forget! More people lost their lives on 9/11 than on December 7th, 1941 in the attack on Pearl Harbor. On 9/11 the United States of America would be changed forever.

Today marks eighteen years since that horrible terrorist attack. Connie and I have fifteen Grandchildren today, and only one of them was alive during 9/11. This Grandchild was a year and a half old and remembers nothing about that day. This is why we who lived through it must never forget! In addition, we must inform subsequent generations of what happened on 9/11/01, and how it changed America and the world.

If you don't do anything else on this day, at least pray for the surviving families. Pray that this will never happen again. And above all, pray that we NEVER forget.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Let God Fight Your Battle!

Jesus said (more than once), "With God, all things are possible." But He didn't say, "All things are easy"! As a matter of fact, many of the things He makes possible for us are NOT easy at all! Sometimes we actually give up, or don't even pursue the things we know are humanly impossible. Instead of believing they are possible, we are convinced they are impossible! Never forget - the impossible only becomes possible when we allow God to become involved in our lives, and to fight our battles.

Jesus said, referring to man entering the Kingdom of God, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27) (Bold added.) Notice Jesus didn't say that all things are possible for God. He said all things are possible with God. Of course, God can do anything by Himself, but He desires be involved with us. He wants to be strong and mighty...through you and me!

II Chronicles Chapter 20; Jehoshaphat was king of Judah.  Israel was split into two nations, one of which had become Judah. King Jehoshaphat gets word of a massive multi-force invasion of Judah about to take place. Complete annihilation was imminent. Judah's total destruction cannot be humanly avoided. The Bible says Jehoshaphat was afraid, and turned his attention to seek the Lord. He was a godly king and knew the power of His God. He also knew that without God's supernatural intervention Judah was doomed.

If you're like me, quite often you are faced with what seem to be impossible situations. Perhaps even right now you are in a situation that seems helpless. And the truth is, it probably is helpless unless God intervenes. Jehoshaphat turned his attention to seek the Lord. He came to the reality that he must have God's supernatural intervention, and that the salvation of Judah was humanly impossible. Jehoshaphat called together all of Judah and proclaimed a time of nationally seeking God.  We need this in our nation! In this prayer he prayed what I call the prayer of faith. The prayer of faith is a prayer with substance. The substance is the Word of God. For instance, "God...have You not said...?" Or, "God...did You not promise? Not that God needed to be reminded of what He had said, but this kind of prayer is a prayer of faith and trust in Him.

The Apostle Paul said, "We walk by faith and not by the way things appear." This is what King Jehoshaphat was doing. Instead of responding to the circumstances and the way it appeared, he was standing on God's promises made to Israel and Judah. Today for you and me it is standing on what God has said in His Word. That's why it is so important to know God's Word. A prayer of faith (which moves God) is impossible without praying His own words! "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

As King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah sought God, He began to move by speaking! When we pray God's Word He speaks to us! God spoke to Judah by telling them He would fight their battle! Humanly it was impossible, but with God all things are possible! As a matter of fact God emphasized to Judah that the battle was His, not theirs. Sometimes we fight battles that don't belong to us! They belong to Him! He does it better! As for Judah, God instructed them to station themselves in a place where they were allowed to see the battle fought and won for them! It took 3 whole days for Judah to harvest the spoils from a victory they didn't even have to fight! The enemy threatened, Judah sought God, He spoke, fought, and won the battle. He provided more than enough through a battle that was humanly impossible to win!

This incident is recorded in the Bible to encourage you and me. The principles are the same for us. When the enemy invades, do not fear! Turn your attention to seek God. Pray His Word in the prayer of faith. He will speak, act, and provide on your behalf!  WITH GOD, all things are possible!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

How's The Fishing?

As a child growing up in Mississippi our family spent many of our vacations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We usually stayed a week at a time at the beautiful Buena Vista Motel. The Buena Vista was located right by the Gulf and had a really large pool with an island in the middle! When we were at the motel, and not sleeping, I was in the pool - day or night! Those are some very special memories for me!

One particular year we went fishing at a peculiar place. It was an indoor fishing arena located off the Pop's Ferry Causeway. The big square building was pretty much like a floating dock on the water, except it was completely enclosed and air conditioned! Inside the building there were squares about 10 by 20 ft. in area. These square areas were equipped with metal banisters to keep you from falling in the water! You simply dropped your baited hook over the railings and into the water. As we walked into the fishing arena, I thought, "This will revolutionize all fishing!" Actually I don't remember catching much, but the air was cool and the soft drinks hit the spot! It's just one of those experiences I'll never forget!

It seemed like a novel idea, but as I said, you really didn't catch much. The reason is because to catch good, tasty fish...you must go where they are! You don't sit in one place and hope the fish will come to you. You try your best to find them. In Mark 1:17 Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Jesus "...went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil." (See Acts 10:38) Jesus didn't pitch a tent in a centrally located place and say, "Y'all come." He went about, and so did His followers!



Let's understand, not everyone needing Jesus will simply wander into our churches. Neither will they knock on our front doors at home. They're out there. We must go about. How do we do that? At work we're listening to the hearts of our coworkers. We're sensitive to their needs, and as the Holy Spirit leads us, we respond accordingly. We don't do this just at work, we do this everywhere. Why? Because the fish are everywhere!

I'm grateful for the opportunities the Holy Spirit has given me to share Jesus. I'm not pushy, but I do listen carefully. I don't just listen to people, I also listen for the Holy Spirit to prompt me to a response. When I do respond, it's amazing how He is involved! Remember, people are everywhere, not just in church. But the church is also everywhere, not just in a building!

So where will you be today? Work? School? Shopping? On vacation? Go fishing! There is no greater fish-finder than the Holy Spirit. Just go about. Go about listening; not just to folks, but to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you about those folks! Then simply do what He says.

970111: Overcomer DVD Bible Study Kit Overcomer DVD Bible Study Kit
By Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick

Many people feel they are less than who God says they are. We get our identity from our careers, our political positions, family roles in the family, and other things. This small group study uses clips from the film Overcomer to examine how we determine our identity and how we can find our true identity in Christ.
The Bible study is geared for adult groups to use prior to the movie or just after seeing the movie. The study includes clips from the movie.
The Overcomer Bible Study Kit has five sessions and includes:
  • one Bible Study Book
  • one DVD with a promotional video and five 2-4 minute video sessions
Session Topics:
  1. Who Are You?
  2. You Are Broken
  3. You Are Chosen
  4. You Surrender
  5. You Declare 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Chick-fil-a A Customer Service Icon

I consistently stand amazed at the customer service offered by Chick-fil-a. Is it any wonder the company gets more revenue per restaurant than any other food chain in the U.S., and it's only open 6 days a week! Just this morning I stopped in for a quick breakfast. Aside from hearing "It's my pleasure" every single time I said "Thank You"; as I walked to empty my tray a young lady with a rather large smile came up to me and said, "Let me do that for you." She took my tray and emptied it for me! My reaction naturally was, "Thank you!" Her response, "It's my pleasure. Have a great day!"

Having been in the customer service business for a number of years (retail sales, pastoring, and pitching Jesus out there), it always fires me up when I receive the special treatment! The truth is however, at most any Chick-fil-a restaurant, everyone gets the special treatment! The result is the success of the organization.

It amazes me how some folks get this and some don't. Listen carefully to this: The essence of great customer service is...great service! Everyone loves to be effectively served, if only for a short time. Great service makes people feel special. When people feel special, they come back for more! This is such a very simple concept. If you're like me (and most are), you don't want to go back to a place where you're nothing more than another number; and you seem to ruin someone's day for coming in. Here's another way of putting it. Folks flock back to a great experience, even if they have to pay a bit more. And just as many avoid places where their experience has been mediocre to just plain bad.

Connie and I attend a great church, St. Simons Community Church. It is a rather large church, and it is quite obvious the church is reaching many folks and impacting their lives. The truth is however, the church impacts nearly as many folks outside the church as those who attend weekly services. How's that happening? Through the practice of offering effective Scriptural service to its members and the local community. God blesses this. At the end of my post I want to show you how ALL effective service is Scripturally based.

Many church leaders wonder why their church hardly grows over time and others grow rapidly. The answer is simple. Some understand what Chick-fil-a understands. It is serving people where the rubber meets the road...and impacting their lives. Again, God blesses this.

The greatest example of incredible service was that of Jesus. He IS the greatest servant of all. Jesus laid aside His kingly privileges, He emptied Himself, became a bond-servant first to God, and humbled Himself into humanity, even to the point of dying for you and me on the cross.

Many churches practice the insanity concept: Doing the same thing - over and over - expecting different results. We call it beating a dead horse! There is only one result - death! If you want to impact people, you must learn to meet folks where they are. This means serving and meeting practical needs as well as spiritual needs. Jesus understood this as He spent 3 1/2 years training His disciples how to strike a balance between the two.

I'm reminded of the incident in the Bible in which Jesus fed 5,000 men. There were actually many more as He also included the women and children in this miracle. Jesus was not only concerned with the their spiritual needs, he was equally concerned with their physical needs. This event developed because Jesus withdrew with His disciples after learning of John the Baptist's beheading. They were looking for a bit of seclusion. Such a great number of people followed them however, that a very large crowd formed. Out of compassion Jesus was concerned that the people would faint from not eating for a long period of time. The desire to meet a physical need resulted in an incredible miracle taking place. Approximately 20,000 people were fed from 5 loaves of bread and a couple of fish! There the drive to meet a practical need produced the supernatural intervention of God's hand!

As promised I want to close with a passage of Scripture that illustrates the Scriptural foundation of excellent serving of one another. Out of the natural the supernatural occurs, impacting lives eternally.

(Philippians 2:1-8), "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  


                    

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Godly Mentors - The Cause Of Godly Change In My Life

When I was stationed in Germany back in the early 80's Connie and I were blessed to be fairly close to a Christian Servicemen's Center. The "Center" (as we called it) was located in Augsburg, Germany. It was a place, run by a civilian American Pastor and his wife. They were called center directors.

Jack and Dorothy Pittman, from North Carolina became the Center Directors a few months after our family arrived in Germany. Brother and Sister Pittman were such gifts to our family. They became our spiritual parents and spent a lot of time with us. One thing Brother Pittman used to say to me was that God was grooming me for the ministry. That was interesting terminology. I'd never heard that before. What he meant was, he could see God's call on our lives, and that He (God) was beginning to prepare us for ministry. If it had not been for the Pitman's, and our time spent with them over the period of about 2 1/2 years, we might not have seen or heard the call of God on our lives.

We've learned from being under such Godly people as Brother and Sister Pittman, Bishop Sam and Rheba Drye, and Pastors Larry and Sandra Linkous that Godly leadership is imperative for those who minister at all for Jesus.

During our wonderful training in Germany, through the Pitmans we recognized and received God's call to ministry. We returned to the States in 1983 as I was reasigned to Robins AFB, GA. During our time at Robins we began to attend Holy Spirit Harvest Church in Macon, GA. The Pastors and founders were Pastors Sam and Rheba Drye. We were  eager to become involved in ministry after being lay pastors of a local Servicemen's fellowship in Neu Ulm, Germany for about 2 years.

Connie and I volunteered for anything that was available! The Dryes also took an interest in us and spent a lot of time with us. In 1984, the year we started attending HSHC, I ushered, worked the call-in prayer line, and played as a musician on the worship team. At the end of 1984, during our church Christmas party, Pastor Sam approached me with a proposition. He asked me if I would be interested in becoming the church's business adminstrator when I exited the Air Force in 1985. I was blown away! HSHC was growing rapidly, and soon would need an admistrator who would also be the Associate Pastor to assist Pastors Sam and Rheba in the ministry of the church!

Let me insert here that Connie and I had just been faced with a very tough decision. We loved Germany so much that I had put in a request to return to Germany after I finished my assignment at Robins AFB, GA. One day (before Pastor Sam had approached me) I received orders to return to a different part of Germany, but nonetheless it was Germany. The only catch was... since I would have no time left at the end of my Robins AFB assignment, I would be required to re-up for 4 more years! We fasted and prayed. We both felt God was telling us to refuse Germany. We both agreed that it was God's will for us to take a giant leap of faith and exit the AF in about 1 year. Just days after we made our decision Pastor Sam approached us about the business administrator position! We accepted!

Altogether we mentored under Pastor Sam and Rheba Dry for about 8 1/2 years. During that time I was helped with my education among with many other things. For instance, we oversaw the singles for a year. We oversaw the young married couples for a year. We oversaw the youth ministry for about a year. I was also the Worship Pastor for about 2 years. Quite honestly, no amount of formal education could equal the mentoring, training, and preparation I received in the early years of our ministry.

Connie and I also owe a debt of gratitude to Pastors Larry and Sandra Linkous who took us under their wings when our first attempt at planting a church didn't succeed as we had hoped. The Linkous' were incredible mentors to us in the areas of encouragement and spiritual endurance. They always encouraged us to NOT lose heart in our doing of good! (See Galatians 6:9)

We've made some mistakes along the journey. Some were pretty big! Thanks to folks who never gave up on us, we're still at it today...even through the heartache we may have caused them. Now Connie and I have a heart and desire to mentor others. We've seen the call on others (especially our children) and have made ourselves available as mentors and encouragers.

Finally, if your life has been enhanced by those who have poured a bit of themselves into you, you are what you are because of their unselfishness. Now it's time for you to do the same. Make yourself available. Pour into others. Raise up those who will eagerly change the world for Jesus. Someone is waiting. 

      

Save 70% on select product(s) with promo code 70N63UAS on Amazon.com

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Do You Believe In Jesus? No I mean REALLY.

With some of the so-called Christian music artists coming out and saying they are renouncing their faith, or struggling with their belief in Jesus, I had to weigh in on it.

First let me say that I believe some are trying to walk the Christian walk - without truly knowing Jesus. If this is the case, one gets to the point that the desire to live your own way gets so strong to the point, that to satisfy your own selfish whims, you just say you don't believe anymore. I mean if a person wants to commit a sin he or she knows is not permissible as a Christian, it's easy to say, "I just don't believe anymore." The problem is, if that person is in Christian leadership or in an influential Christian entertainment position, you have to step aside or lose your following. But what if they don't step aside? That could be very dangerous for other believers; especially those who are younger in the Lord.

I recently read a blog post by a famous Christian music artist who was saying that Evangelical Christianity is not genuine and does not work for the most part. Here is a short statement from the blog post: "If I don’t believe that Jesus was God incarnate but still hold to his teachings and follow as best as I can the way of life he taught, who are you to say that I can’t call myself a Christian?" (Bold print added by me.) The answer to that questions is, it's not what I say, it's what the Bible says. There is a wave washing in currently that attempts to erode the relevancy of the Bible. This gives a so-called believer an excuse for not standing firmly upon the principles and promises of God's Word.


In response to the question posed by the Christian artist above: The very crux of Christianity is the belief that God was incarnate; that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary, and born as a Human. This made Him literally, the Son of God. Because He was "born of the Spirit", He literally had no sin nature. This qualified Him to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. When He was offered up on the cross, He bore the sins of the whole world; past, present, and future. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me." (John 14:6)


Christianity is all about Jesus. That's not my opinion, it happens to be God's. I choose to believe what God's Word says. Anyone can call themselves Christian. But true Christianity is about knowing and following Jesus. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after me (meaning live like I live), he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Matt. 16:24).


I'll admit, there is a lot wrong with "organized religion", and always has been. But I also believe that there is a vicious attack on true Christianity. The spirit of anti-Christ is strong in these last days before the return of Jesus. His ploy is to draw people away from Jesus by delusion. And at the same time, there is a separation happening between those who have called themselves Christians and those who are actually followers or disciples of Jesus Christ.


True Christians are being challenged in these last days to stand on what they believe. Those who are willing to stand will make a tremendous impact simply by the lives they live for Jesus. Those who won't stand, more than likely never believed what they claimed to believe.


The truth is, most of us struggle from time to time. But, if we have a genuine, growing relationship with Jesus, we will mature to the point that we walk by faith through every circumstance. The Bible never said we won't be tested with trials and struggles of various kinds. But it does say we are in a race. The goal of the race is completion. It's not a matter of who crosses the finish line first. It's a matter of finishing!


Everyone has struggled at some point, in their relationship with Jesus. But those are the very points at which we can become stronger in our relationship and faith to believe, simply by applying what we should know of God's Word.


Check your relationship with Him. Are you genuinely born again by the Spirit? I'm not being judgmental. This is something you must be able to rest in. The enemy will always question your salvation experience. That's why we have God's immutable Word to stand on. It's not based on how we may feel tomorrow. It's based on His Word alone.


And finally my Christian friends, it's time to make a stand on whom we believe in; and what we believe in. There has never been a greater need than right now for the true followers of Jesus to stand for Him. Jesus said "If they hate me, they will hate you." But that's not everyone. There are myriads of folks currently waiting for true believers to demonstrate the genuine essence of Jesus' love, no matter what the world and false believers are screaming. They are waiting for you to stand in the midst of this present generation and lead them straight to Jesus. What will you do?



1317BD: Is Jesus the Only Way? - CD


Is Jesus the Only Way? - CD
By Ravi Zacharias

On A Mission

Monday, August 5, 2019

Pray For America

I am deeply grieved over all the shootings in the U.S. What a tragedy. What a waste of human life. How far will it go? How many more will die? Please pray for those who tragically lost loved ones, and pray for those who were wounded. Only by God's Holy Spirit can anyone be supernaturally comforted. And that happens when we pray!

Remember, Holy Spirit moves when God's people pray. God didn't establish prayer for His church as an option. Prayer is part of the essence of His church in the earth. His church is the body of Jesus Christ. If Jesus were here in bodily form, He would be praying and ministering the love of God to each and every person affected.

Jesus said in the last days that lawlessness will increase to the point that most people's love will grow cold. (See Matthew 24:12) I don't believe He was referring to Christians. Yes, we must always guard our hearts and be diligent to watch over it. But I believe Jesus was referring to the world. He said "most" people's love will grow cold due to increasing lawlessness. Unfortunately "most" includes almost everyone.

But never forget. God is bigger than all of the troubles we face as a nation! The answer: A move of God in America. By no means is it time to give in! As a matter of fact, it's time to take a stand for Jesus, in the midst of a crooked and perverse world! How do we stand for Jesus? First, make sure you truly know Him. Are you living for Him? Are you serving Him? Is your relationship with Him advancing? Then, you must learn and know His Word. Are you praying His Word? Are you speaking and confessing His Word over your life in all areas? Your prayers will only be as powerful as the level of God's Word you know and apply to your life. That's why He's given you and me the Word. We must apply it and live it 24 X 7!

Always pray for those affected by these terrible atrocities. And also pray for our nation as a whole. Because what we need is revival in our land. The only thing that can truly change the heart of a person - is God moving on the heart of that person. No amount of legislation, no amount of protesting, politics or demonstrating can do it. Only the Spirit of God. As you are praying, ask God to open the eyes and hearts of other believers to the dire need for His move on hearts. God moves on hearts when revival breaks out. Revival breaks out when enough followers of Jesus commit themselves to fervent, persistent prayer.

There's just one more element to seeing a revival break out in America...YOU. You cannot be passive. I cannot be passive. The atrocities are real, because the sin is real. However God has broken the power of sin through the eternal sacrifice of Jesus over 2000 years ago. Have you had enough? If so, will you pray? Can you sacrifice some time and energy to petition God in behalf of our nation? That's what it will take. Anything less is you surrendering our nation to the enemy. I don't know about you. But I am NOT ready to relinquish America to the powers of evil by being passive. You and I are the ones standing in evil's way. But only if we commit to prevailing prayer.


 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

I Notice Things

I happen to be one of those persons who notices things. I'm talking about all sorts of things. Big things. Little things. I just happen to be a noticer; an observer, if you will. I'll notice when someone's hair changes during the same seen in a movie. There would have been no reason for their hair to change because the scene didn't change. The cameras would be on two people carrying on a conversation. As the cameras alternate between the two characters, one of the character's hair changed a bit! (Usually a female.) Apparently there was a break in the production of the scene. When the production resumed, the hair was just a little bit different. I just notice stuff! Sometimes it amazes me.

Every year, in the month of August, I tend to notice that Fall is near. Weird huh? Not because the calendar says so, but for other reasons most people don't catch. Remember, I said I notice things. How do I notice this? There is something about the shadows the sun causes during the month of August. They seem to be longer than say, in May and June. Yes, I know that August is the hottest month of the year here Georgia's Golden Isles, but it's not about the immediate temperature. It's too early for what little folliage that would change in the Fall to change. It's the little things that are changing that give me a bit of excitement that Fall is on the way.

Jesus says we need to notice some really crucial things. And for you and me they are pretty noticable. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near." (Mark 13:28) Jesus also said, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:2-3)

The signs of the times; definitely something we really, really need to notice and observe. Why would Jesus say it's very important to notice the signs of our time? Because the signs of our time alert us to the fact that Jesus is returning soon. "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. (Matthew 24:32-33)

The key to observing of the signs of our time is learning and knowing the Word of God. It is recognizing "all these things" that Jesus said would alert us to His imminent return. It's true, according to Jesus no one (but the Father) knows the day or the hour of His return. However, we should all be observant enough (according to current signs) to know that His return is near.

If we don't know the exact day or hour of His return, we must always be ready for His coming. Today could be the day. Somewhere within the next 60 minutes could be the hour. Are you ready? Many Christians don't believe His return is near. But my friend, know that it has been over 2,000 years since His departure. And most importantly, know that the signs of the times are loudly proclaiming that Jesus' return is very near.

One final passage. "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes." (Matthew 24:44-46) If you are a believer, you have the responsibility of looking for His return. If it were not very, very important, Jesus would not have said so.


Monday, July 22, 2019

How Much Is He Worth To You?

I heard a sermon recently that really made me think about something. The message was from Mark Chapter 14 about the woman who broke the alabaster vial of very expensive perfume, and poured it on Jesus' head. Some of the people in the room became indignant remarking to one another, "'Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.' And they were scolding her." (Mark 14:4-5) Jesus told the complainers to leave her alone; that she was doing something good for Him! "For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her." (Mark 14:6-9)

This event happened just before Jesus was arrested and crucified. In order to not leave Him on the cross, due to the approaching Sabbath, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed tomb temporarily. The plan by some was to anoint His body after the Sabbath. However Jesus rose from the dead very early on the first day of the week (the day after the Sabbath). Some of the women came to the tomb with anointing oil and spices and He wasn't there! No problem. The woman with the alabaster vial of very expensive perfume had already anointed Him. This was amazing and shows us that God's plan will be accomplished. He was anointed, beforehand, for His burial because He wouldn't be around to be anointed as a dead person!

Something else about this event amazes me. It's not clear how or where this woman got the perfume, but she had it. If the disciples were correct it was worth a year's salary. I'm sure to anyone in that day, this was a very large amount of money. Can you imagine spending a whole year's pay on a bottle of perfume?

One thing we do know is that this woman considered something else more valuable than the expensive perfume; what Jesus had done for her. Anointing Jesus (with this perfume) was exceedingly more valuable that whatever the cost of it might have been. Anointing Jesus was much more valuable than the money she could have received from selling it. Anointing Him was even more valuable than selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor. Her action was based on what Jesus had personally done for her, and nothing could ever be more valuable that an opportunity for her to show her deep appreciation.

I've heard this called extravagant worship many times, and I believe it. The woman was criticized for her actions, but the criticism was of no value to her. She could take it. Anointing Jesus was the most valuable thing to her. NOTHING else mattered to her.

What an example for you and me. How valuable is Jesus to you? Better asked, how valuable is what He has done for you? Is it so valuable that nothing else matters? Is it so valuable that what people say doesn't matter? How about what you think they might think? Oh that we would fall so in love with Jesus, that literally nothing else would matter! And like this woman, we would pour out ALL of our love and worship...on Jesus alone, no matter what the cost. This is truly extravagant worship!

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Making A Place For Him

What does it mean to make a place for Him? Let me start by saying that the most significant reason for God's people gathering together is to meet with Jesus. Certainly, fellowshiping with one another is significant. Feeding on God's Word is significant. Praying together is very significant. But if Holy Spirit is not there, everything else becomes incredibly less spiritually significant. Unfortunately in many church gatherings today, He is not there. Why? Because there is no place prepared for Him.

The music is polished. The singers are talented and proficiently prepared. The lights are bright and moving. The preacher is dynamic and charismatic (in personality). The sound is acoustically balanced. From parking lot attendants to the ushers, everything is perfectly in place. But one thing is missing...Him!

I can already hear someone saying, "Yes, but the Bible says, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20) This brings up a crucial question: Are you genuinely gathered together in His name? If 2 or 3 (or more) truly gather in Jesus' name, they've gathered to make a place for His presence! The reason, to meet with Him. Any time we gather for worship, the basis for it ALL must be to meet with Him.

Jesus has given us Holy Spirit, the presence of God. Listen to what Jesus said about Him. "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:14-15) If our gatherings are void of Holy Spirit we miss out on what the Father and Jesus have for us.

So how do we avoid the void? We make a place for Him. The truth is, Holy Spirit deeply desires to be the sole basis for our gatherings. He is God's Spirit, and He loves us with the Father's love. He is the Spirit of Jesus, the very one who came and broke the power of sin over us by sacrificing His own life for us. In addition Jesus, knowing He would return to the Father emphatically stated "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:18) He comes to us through the presence of Holy Spirit, who eagerly desires to meet with us individually and corporately. However, if our gatherings are not planned around a deep desire and a definite effort to meet with Him, He won't be there. As a matter of fact, without a deep desire and a definite effort to meet with Him, our gathering will be engineered to cater to man, and not Him.

There is nothing evil about making the effort to be excellent in the presentation of our worship. We should always want to do the best we possibly can. However, our efforts alone won't change someone from the inside out. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit can and will! We must be aware of the fact that we can draw crowds without Holy Spirit's help. But folks won't be changed. Our services must present a life-changing environment. Only Holy Spirit can change lives by meeting with us. We must make a place for Him.

How do we make a place for Him? First we must understand that we have a vital part in this. Holy Spirit comes when and where He is welcomed. He is drawn to people who are hungry and thirsty for His presence. This starts in personal worship. We all must make the time and the place for His presence in our own lives. Can you imagine how our services would go if the majority of the folks who show up had already been in His presence in deliberate preparation to welcome His presence corporately in the gathering? He eagerly desires to be with those who desire to be with Him.

How many times have you heard, "Lord, please anoint our worship." If you are anointed, the worship will be anointed. That's our important part.

I wonder how many Praise & Worship teams actually spend time worshiping as a group, to make a place for Him? Maybe you do, but many don't. Certainly we gather in a circle and ask God to bless our service. But I'm talking about entering into His presence together, as a worship team. You cannot lead folks where you haven't been. No matter how long your worship practice is...you need to spend at least half of that time worshiping as a team - preparing a place for Him in your midst. God doesn't only anoint the "official" gathering; He anoints anyone and anything offered to Him from hearts desiring to meet with Him! Many folks are so busy now that they only meet before the services on Sunday to practice. If that's you, you need to change that. Make it a requirement to meet at least one night in the week to practice the music and vocals, and to spend time as a team worshiping. If you're too busy for that, your too busy for His presence in your gatherings. I'll have to say, some of the most powerful times I have spent in His presence were when we were worshiping Him as a team - during practice. 

Some services are designed to make it most convenient for the people. In and out in a short time. Short praise and worship as to not tire out the people. Everything is designed for the comfort of the people, but not for the presence of God. I think it's time that some folks think seriously about changing this! The times we live in are the darkest yet. However, the power of His presence will permeate any degree of darkness. We need His presence to bring the fire back into our services in the midst of a sinful generation. How desperately folks need the light of His presence; the light of His love.

I am not anyway trying to be critical or judgmental. The truth is, many services are great, impressive presentations. But there is no fire of His presence on the service. Why? Because He's not there. Why is that? Because a place for Him has not been prepared in the midst of His people. I can promise you (I know I say that a lot), if you commit to make a place for Him in your midst, He will come. And He will bring the fire, and lives will be changed!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Not Every Believer Is A Follower

I am really into learning and confessing the Word of God. The way to apply God's powerful Word to your life is to learn it and confess it. Why would one want to apply the Word of God to their life? Because the Word works. I really wish more believers would embrace this. This is one of the keys to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. 

The truth is, not every believer is a follower of Christ. A follower of Jesus is what the Bible calls a disciple. A disciple is a person who learns and applies the Word to their life in prayer and in daily confession. They say what Jesus said. They pray the way Jesus prayed. As a result, they do what Jesus did! "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8: 31 - 32) Certainly it is God's truth that sets us free. But you won't know God's truth (and be free) until you continue in the Word of God as Jesus said. Only followers of Jesus (disciples) are truly free to be continuously and powerfully used of God.

Take the 12 disciples. Jesus poured His life and His teaching into these guys for 3 and a half years. Not only that, they sat willingly at His feet, feeding on His Word for the entire duration of His ministry. He demonstrated the Word to and for them. He even authorized them to go out and apply what they learned, before He returned to the right hand of the Father. You are a disciple only if you continue in His Word. Then you will know the very truth that frees you to do the "greater works" He said you would do. (See John 14: 12)

God didn't send Jesus to the earth just to save you so you would go to heaven. If that were the case He would have arranged it so that whenever one accepts Jesus, they would just drop dead and go to heaven. Listen to this very carefully. The Gospel is not based just on the point at which we die, but also on the point at which we come to life as new creatures in Christ Jesus! From the point we begin to live in Christ it must be emphasized that we begin, and continue in His Word. Then we learn the truth (by experiment), and the truth sets us free.

If you are a disciple (follower) of Jesus, you are surely saved, and your eternal destination has been settled and secured. But you are also qualified and authorized to be a world-changer. Jesus returned to the Father. He sent forth the Holy Spirit to enable His disciples to carry on the same ministry He started when He was here.

God sent Jesus to save you so that you would make a difference on this earth...before you leave (just as He did.) Heaven is a very significant and wonderful part of the deal. Yes, I know that eternity is way longer than our time on this planet. However, the life you live on this planet will extremely affect the eternity you will spend in heaven. And not only that, but the life you live for Jesus (here) will extremely affect the lives of others who also reside on the planet!

Are you ready to be a world-changer? Be a disciple of Jesus. Be a follower of Jesus. Become a student and a devourer of His Word. Through His Word, get to know the truth. Let Him make you free to change the world you live in! Don't just be a believer...be a follower of Jesus.

The Cost Of Following Jesus (Part 2)